Helen's Garden Renovation Project

Saturday 6 December 2008

Leaves and bricks

Filed under: Greenhouse,Progress — Helen @ 4:04 pm

The blog has been silent recently, but that’s because I have been spending my gardening time tidying up, and there is really not much to say on the subject of picking up leaves and pulling up weeds. It has been breathtakingly cold and sometimes I have not been able to stay out for very long because my fingers stop working.

I have started to dig my trench. I have not yet found out how deep it has to be to meet electrical regulations, but I am aiming for a depth of two feet. I don’t know anything about trench engineering and therefore I don’t know how wide it has to be in order to achieve that depth without the sides crumbling in. I am guessing that it has to be a minimum of a spade’s width, so I am going to dig it that wide and see how deep I can get. So far there have not been any troublesome roots from the magnificent beech tree next door but I have found and removed two whole house bricks. There is also the problem of trying to keep the subsoil separate from the topsoil, but what I shall probably do is to put the topsoil in a heap somewhere else in the garden, and pile up the subsoil next to the trench, so I can just tip it back in when the electrician has laid the cable.

The Greenhouse People sent me some very good instructions about what to do with my greenhouse when it arrives. I am having toughened glass, which is apparently not as tough as it sounds, because if you bash its edges just a little bit, it shatters dramatically into tiny pieces. I am not allowed to stand it on the concrete floor of my garage. However, it should be quite comfortable on several layers of the industrial strength dustsheets I bought for last time I painted a room.


Friday 21 November 2008

The greenhouse is coming…

Filed under: Greenhouse,Progress — Helen @ 4:29 pm

Yesterday, at last, I ordered my greenhouse. I bought it from The Greenhouse People. It is a small octagonal one, with green powder coating, toughened glass and staging. I also ordered two shelves. Including delivery, this costs £1106. So now I have done my bit to help the recession and can spend the rest of it reading library books and wearing clothes with holes in them.

Unfortunately, delivery of the greenhouse may still be some time away, because the website is quoting 7-9 weeks. I should have checked this before and ordered two weeks ago. But it doesn’t really matter if I don’t get it until the end of January.

While waiting for the greenhouse to arrive, I am giving the garden a very thorough tidy-up. It missed being tidied up last year because I had so many maths students. This year, either because of the recession or because of natural fluctuation, I have far fewer, which gives me time to sort out the garden properly. Most of my job is to clear away leaves, along with the partial leaf mould formed by fallen leaves from a year ago.

After that, I will have to dig the trench for the electric cable to the greenhouse, so I have made another cake to provide the fuel.


Monday 25 August 2008

Locating the greenhouse

Filed under: Greenhouse,Magnolia,Progress — Helen @ 7:49 pm

I keep reading that this summer is very wet, but after last summer, my idea of what a wet summer means has been radically recalibrated. Yes, it has rained a bit, but I have made a much better job of keeping on top of the weeds than I did last year, because I have sometimes had a chance to go out and pull them up. And I haven’t had to do much watering of pots or of the new planting in the communal areas outside my house, so I am not complaining. I have bought a Vulkan Tennis Elbow Brace from Amazon (is there anything they don’t sell?) and that has allowed me to carry on weeding and pruning in reasonable comfort.

Not only are the weeds being pulled up, but progress, although very slow, is being made. Here was my plan of February 2007:

(1) Get the air conditioning unit moved. DONE.

(2) Get the side passage paved over and remove posts in far corner where greenhouse will go. DONE

(3) Install water butts. DONE.

(4) Buy and assemble tool store. DONE apart from needing a shelf.

(5) Put tools in tool store and tidy up garage. NOT DONE YET.

(6) Order greenhouse and get it installed. NOT DONE YET.

I can now refine the plan as follows (the tasks do not necessarily have to be executed in the given order):

(1) Remove the four Leylandii trees at the right-hand end of the hedge and replace with Thuja plicata. This is part of my plan to renew the whole hedge in three stages.

(2) Work out where greenhouse is going to go.

(3) Tidy up garage to make room for greenhouse. This may involve getting another tool store and putting a shelf in the existing tool store.

(4) Order greenhouse.

(5) Dig trench for cable.

(6) Get quote for work to lay base for greenhouse, put it up and wire it up to the mains.

(7) Get work done.

Today I trimmed some branches off the Leylandii that are going to get dug up, and worked out where the greenhouse is supposed to go. To avoid copyright problems, I have redrawn the part of the plan that deals with the right-hand back corner of the garden and here it is:

Plan of garden showing where the greenhouse will go

I stuck four bamboo canes into the ground at the corners of the square enclosing the octagonal greenhouse, where the four pairs of dotted lines meet in the plan. Here are two photographs. The first is taken looking towards the back fence, at a slight angle so you can see behind the bay tree (the big green shrub at the right of the picture).

Greenhouse location looking towards the back fence

Greenhouse location looking towards the back fence

And this one is taken looking from the side.

Greenhouse location from side

Greenhouse location from side

You may not be able to see it from these photographs, but there is a slight hitch in the plan. The bay tree is growing where the arch is supposed to go. The greenhouse cannot go any closer to the back fence because I need access to the compost bin in the corner, and because there needs to be access to the hedge to keep it trimmed. I have been thinking about my options.

(1) Murder the bay tree and put the greenhouse and arch where the plan says.

(2) Keep the bay tree and move the greenhouse further away from the side wall so there is room for the arch.

(3) Keep the bay tree and don’t move the greenhouse, but put the arch somewhere else, or don’t have it.

I don’t want to move the greenhouse, as that will reduce the space I have for growing vegetables and will result in wasted space between the fence and the greenhouse where nothing will grow. So I have to decide whether I want an arch or a bay tree next to the greenhouse. The bay tree is one of the few mature shrubs still remaining in the garden, and I am inclined to leave it where it is, and then see how it looks next to the greenhouse. On the other hand, if I am definitely going to get rid of it, it would be a lot easier to dig it up before digging the trench for the cable. And it is rather big. Although I definitely want a bay tree (I use its leaves in cooking) I could manage perfectly well with a smaller one grown in a pot or restricted space. I don’t actually have to murder it: I could cut it right back and prune its roots and stick it in a pot, just like the magnolia (which still seems perfectly happy – see the first of the two photographs in this post) or I could dig up one of the small offshoots near its base and plant that in a pot instead. One thing is for sure – despite my guilt at dispatching a healthy and beautiful plant, it will be heaven to chop it up, with that gorgeous aromatic scent from its leaves.

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